Interview with Calvin Arsenia
One of Kansas City's beloved musicians, Calvin Arsenia, just released a new album Cantaloupe. Calvin is off overseas touring right now but he took a little time to answer a few burning questions I had about his new album. Before we got to deep I asked a few fun questions too. If you want to hear more of his back story, take a listen to an interview I did with Calvin about two years ago (embeded below).
Kimmy: I'm curious, do you write in print or cursive?
Calvin: I prefer a mixture of both cursive and print when writing with pencils and pens.
Kimmy: Tell me, what was the first song you learned on the harp?
Calvin: DC sleeps alone tonight by Postal Service
Kimmy: Do you have a favorite visual artist?
Calvin: Vincent Van Gogh, typical, I know.
"Headlights" Music Video off Calvin Arsenia's Cantaloupe
Kimmy: Okay, lets dig into your album. How did you grow making this album?
Calvin: This album, for me, was a exercise in listening to my instincts as an artist. In the past, decisions were often influenced by more logical mind, but this time it definitely came from my gut and heart. I think myself and the producers, Miller and Huntley, would agree to have tuned into that space for this project.
Kimmy: What are you most proud of with this album?
Calvin: The production is definitely a centerpiece of this record. It sounds like itself - not a copy or replica of a certain style or artist. We were influenced by a fascination about ASMR as well as making sure that every sound existed in a space - not just a track in a song.
Also some of the lyrics in this record continue to unfold for me now. “My callouses are palaces in times of peace and castles in times of war.” I’m proud of them as well.
Kimmy: How did you decide who to collaborate with?
Calvin: I want to only work with humble people who work with their heart and not their head, who work the same if they are paid or unpaid. People who are not concerned with genre or commercial viability.
Kimmy: When you play a show you become vulnerable in your performance; can you talk about that experience?
Calvin: At some point in my career, I realized that the human to human connection is what impacts the audience most - way more than a light show or perfect technique. I try to do something that actually scares me in every performance. It’s pleasurable to poke holes in the traditions of a front man or stage etiquette.
Kimmy: How has your identity as someone who's queer affect the way you write music?
Calvin: I don’t think my sexual orientation has had much influence on the way I write music.
I close my eyes and wait until music visits me in my imagination. Like artifacts found in a deep sea, I do my best to retain the integrity of the melodies and broken pieces I bring them to the surface. Then I clean them up and put them on display.
The lyrics come from a real place - mixing stale stoic fact driven imagery with really dry humor and word play.
Neither of these processes have much to do with the kind of body I prefer to be held by at night.
Kimmy: I've really been stuck on the Nike commercial with Colin Kaepernick right now. He says, "Don't ask if your dreams are crazy, ask if they're crazy enough." What are you dreaming right now?
Calvin: My dreams are pretty crazy. I’d like to collaborate with other life forms, besides just human life, in the context of music. I’d like to incorporate and collaborate more closely with artists of various disciplines: mixologist, botanists, chemists...I’d like to explore more amazingly beautiful places and compose music for particular audiences, in these spaces, with a particular menu of local foods, particular scents, etc. I just want to make the most perfect moments.
Kimmy: What is the role of a musician as a citizen of the world?
Calvin: “The Musician” gets to unite and divide without a single word.
As a bonus, here is a song Calvin sang just for this interview in his studio space.